CATHOLICS, HEALTH CARE REFORM, AND REPRODUCTIVE HEALTH.

Earlier this week, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards rebutted a post by U.S. News and World Report's God and Country blogger, Dan Gilgoff, who unquestioningly suggested that the Obama administration needed to respond to the "demand" of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops that abortion services be excluded from health care reform. (Gilgoff, who frequently leaves right-wing spin untouched in his posts, more recently has recruited religious right figures as guest bloggers).

Richards wrote, "Does anyone else see the irony in the U.S. bishops wanting to define universal health care as covering everything except for what they don't support? Under this theory, I suppose women are supposed to wait to see just exactly how the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops comes down on a variety of health care needs to understand what in fact will be considered universal." But since Obama has painted himself into a corner by elevating religious voices (and including a representative of the U.S.C.C.B. on his faith-based advisory council), he finds himself in the squirmy position of trying to answer: whose religion?

Catholics for Choice -- which was not asked to participate in yesterday's call between "people of faith" and the White House, has put out its own passionate and detailed statement on health care reform. (The U.S.C.C.B. did not participate either; anti-choice evangelicals, also not on the call, are now outraged that Obama said spreading misinformation about, among other things, government-funded abortion, was "bearing false witness.")

In his statement, Catholics for Choice president Jon O'Brien calls for contraception to not just be covered, but to be free. "As access to free contraception provides men and women with the resources they need to lead happy and healthy lives and saves money, including provisions for free contraception ought to be obvious to the architects of healthcare reform," O'Brien writes. The outrage, of course, is that this isn't at all obvious to lawmakers, because, as with much of the health care reform debate, the loud voices of irrationality -- some now saying that even contraceptive coverage violates religious conscience -- are still hijacking the debate.

--Sarah Posner

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